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Diabetes in the media: often more fiction than fact

It used to just be movies and the occasional TV show. But thanks to the Internet, misinformation about diabetes travels at nearly the speed of light. Is there anything you can do about it?

Con Air. Panic Room. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Hollywood has a history of mistakenly showing people with diabetes treating lows with insulin, suggesting that eating candy causes diabetes and implying that missing an insulin injection causes an immediate emergency. Now the Internet is making its own dubious contributions.

Of course, the Web is chock full of faux cures you should be trying—from cinnamon to raw food to probiotics. And you may remember the Twitter war that broke out last year when a fitness company blamed soda for causing diabetes.

In February, the British soap opera EastEnders was investigated by the UK regulations agency when a similar joke about candy received more than 40 complaints from angry viewers.

Closer to home, the new FX show, Baskets, features twins (both played by Zach Galifianakis) whose mother learns that she has diabetes after falling into a coma from low blood sugar. But if she hadn't been diagnosed or undergoing treatment, she'd be unlikely to suffer a low—especially one that severe.1 It's not a great thing to get wrong, as we know many people with type 2 diabetes worry about lows more than they should.2 Still, for a comedy to be thoughtful about a person coming to grips with her diagnosis and the need to make positive changes is a giant step in the right direction.

How can the community help?
Many people remain surprisingly uninformed about the causes, effects and treatment of diabetes. What can you do? Pop an e-mail. Write a letter. Say something in social. Just remember to keep your cool—as they say, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar (and, unlike what you hear in the movies, honey is not off-limits).

1Lipska KJ, Warton EM, Huang ES, et. al. HbA1c and risk of severe hypoglycemia in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(11): 3535-3542. Available at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/11/3535.full.pdf. Accessed April 30, 2016.

2Polonsky WH. Diabetes Burnout: What to Do When You Can't Take It Anymore. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association; 1999.

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